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| 5/18/2010 12:00:00 AM

Cerebral candidate is surprise front-runner in Colombia

May 18--Former Bogota mayor and Green Party presidential candidate Antanas Mockus discusses his unexpected success, Plan Colombia and what he likes about Hugo Chavez.

The surprise of the Colombian presidential campaign has been the surge of Bogota's former mayor, Antanas Mockus, from nowhere to the top of voter preference polls in advance of first-round voting on May 30.

After twice running unsuccessfully, the cerebral Green Party candidate owes his lead to an alliance with another popular ex-mayor, Medellin's Sergio Fajardo, as his vice presidential running mate; the support of young voters; and his use of online social media. Though Colombians admire outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, a significant number of them are fed up with political scandals and want a new direction.
 
A 58-year-old former university rector and the son of Lithuanian immigrants, Mockus is the quintessential anti-politician, touting ethics and good citizenship. He attributes the reduction in crime during his two mayoral stints to restricting alcohol sales in trouble zones, as well as urging Bogotanos to restrain "the rude person inside of us." Mockus recently disclosed that he suffers from early-stage Parkinson's disease but said his neurologists assured him that he has 10 years before the malady becomes debilitating. He spoke with The Times after a campaign rally here in the heart of Colombia's coffee-growing district.
 
Read more here.
 
Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.
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